Friday, October 18, 2013

Want a job at BART? Check this out!

If I can make decisions for BART, I would 1) terminate relationships with all unionized employees, 2) search for new candidates under a generous and fair compensation and benefits plan that won't cripple the system, 3) welcome back those employees who are willing to work under unrepresented conditions, 4) shorten training program by 50% (come on, the trains are semi-automated, and if you hire smarter people, it wouldn't take months to train new drivers!) while using the 20+ managers who right now know how to operate the trains.  Passengers will need to suck it up for a few weeks but most would be willing to do so to end this unionized nonsense, and 5) start BART operations anew with new staff.

Of course, this is just me sharing my would-be actions without understanding the legal ramifications.  However, through my dreaming this up, I found the BART job boards.  I wanted to see how much qualifications were required to apply to work as a station agent, train operator, maintenance crew, security, etc.  The answer is?  Not much!  Any of us can do it...truly.

Check it out!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The BART seat pecking order

With the BART strike appearing likely tonight, I feel like I need to lighten things up by addressing an awkward situation we encounter daily.  For some of us, we flat out prefer to stand on BART to avoid contact with the old cloth seats.  I usually stand, but on occasions especially at the end of the day, when one of the refurbished trains approach, I don't mind taking a rest on one of the plastic seats.

There is an unsaid rule that women should sit over men.  I don't really think that should be the case but I feel that a lot of men do feel pressured to allow female passengers to take an open seat even if it's right next to them.  Poor tired men who actually want to sit.  Just do's fine, chivalry is not necessary (or expected) on BART IMHO.

Based on what I've seen in more than 11 years of taking BART, this is the pecking order when it comes to seats:

1) Handicapped-- yep, no argument there, they should always have a seat, anywhere.  Or if they have a cast and crutches, they should sit.
2) Obese passengers - I don't mean overweight, I mean so large that they need two seats.  I think to ease their pain and embarrassment, please just get up for them quietly and let them sit down!
3) Elderly-- this is a tricky one. Some who look very old are insulted when you offer them one, and others who have barely 20 gray hairs boot you out of your seat on the "elderly" badge.  If they have a cane, they should sit, no matter where the seat.
4) People with babies or kids -- The kids should sit.  It's pretty intimidating to be standing in such a turbulent and crowded environment.  If parents are carrying babies, they should sit too.  It's dangerous to stand and balance with your baby!
5) Pregnant women -- If someone appears to be in their 3rd trimester, I always give them my seat.  But then, it's tricky too...sometimes, someone APPEARS pregnant but are not!  Or sometimes, someone barely in their 2nd trimester says, I'm pregnant, and forces out another passenger.  Pregnant women can stand, I've been there.  Unless you are about to pop, but if that's the case, you shouldn't even be on BART!
6) Overweight passengers-- These are just larger passengers, not obese.  I would let them sit because it's not comfortable for them to stand, and they are taking up probably too much standing room.
7) Any other females by proximity to open seat

Thoughts?  I've written about this in the past but I think my order has changed.  Obese passengers have moved up on my list.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When bad gets worse

BART has been delayed pretty much everyday the past week.  This morning, there was a 12 minute delay from 925 area code stations to SF.  We all know delays means crowded trains.  We usually all make that work by being uncomfortably close with other passengers but heck, keep your head down, mind your own business, and we all get to work within the hour.  It's fine.  We deal with it.

Today, it was also crowded but what made the ride unbearable were two people taking advantage of the extreme proximity to make out.  Yes, they are a couple, but with the lack of fresh air and space already in the train, they really did not need to show their affections so fervently and so publicly.  I was luckily 5 feet away from them but there was one man whose face was about two inches from their lip lock (actually tongue lock, I should say.)  The man had no room but to stand facing them.  It must have been incredibly uncomfortable for him to be part of that exchange.  So unsightly, I don't care who you are, don't make out on BART, especially when we are forced to see it.

But my commute gets worse.  And the second part I can't blame BART for at all.  I finally got to my building and got on to the elevator.  The elevator didn't move, it also wouldn't open again.  It pretty much just stayed still.  A buzz alarm went off in the elevator and the door still would not open.  The elevator just stayed still with the doors shut.  I thought someone from the outside would sure need an elevator and the door would open soon enough but as I heard other elevators open up and close, I started to panic a bit.  By then I had been in there for more than two minutes.  It was another minute before it finally opened up but I was dialing my office manager to seek help from security.

Monday morning commutes are always eventful.  Let's hope I don't get stuck in an elevator again this week.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

This is so OK with me...not!!

Seriously, if I weren't two stops away from my exit, I might have risked my life to say something.  We all need to stretch but this? Seriously?  Can you see me (dark denim on bottom left) try to move my leg as far as possible to his shoe??

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Governor Jerry Brown calls Cooling Off Period to Avert Strike and Keep Negotiations Going

It's a temporary fix but I am glad.  At least we postpone the worst scenario by one more week.  Have a good week everyone-- I will keep sharing my thoughts on the negotiation progress through the week.

Thanks Jerry, for this one!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Strike on Monday Highly Likely! Who is watching out for us, the passengers??

I am sure you have all heard by now, BART union issued a 72 hour strike notice last night.   The unions and BART management seem to be no where close to coming to an agreement.  

According to SF Chronicle, BART medical insurance costs have increased by 251 percent in the past 12 years, from $24.6 million to over $86.4 million next year, while the employees' pay has increased from $25 to $92.  Sounds pretty reasonable to me, especially with the lax and generous overtime and sick policy.  

I don't think the rest of us had salaries and benefits that increased by that much in the last 12 years.  It's a much higher pace than inflation.

Do I side with management? Not exactly, their salaries make anything else look inequitable.  Do I side with unions?  Not really.  I don't feel that the level of service we, the passengers, receive warrant a significant pay and benefits bump.

I just want this to be resolved without the need to raise fares.  $10+ per day isn't easy for many to afford.  It's food for the family, school supplies for kids, money to pay medical bills and drugs, etc.  Can anyone please think about the passengers a bit here?  We work damn hard to do what we can to support our families and unfortunately, we have to depend on BART to get us to work and back home.

Who is there to watch out for passengers???  Why don't we have a say?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Are you ready for another BART strike?

Perhaps there will not be another strike since it does appear the two sides are making some progress and BART management is giving in to some demands but ultimately, it will be us, the passengers who will pay for it, literally!

SF Business Times reports that the settlement could raise BART fares by up to 18%.  I pay $8.50 daily already.  I guess I will expect that to go up to $10 per day.  Even more of a reason to work from home for a couple days a week.

I think employers in Bay Area should start offering commuter benefits, not just pre-tax but actually allow a $80 - $100 commuting allowance per month.  Adobe did that before and it was great!

What do you think?  Do you get commuter benefits?

Monday, July 01, 2013

Learn the facts? Here's something about BART overtime pay you should know.

This article was very helpful in laying out some outrageous facts.  And the writer is right, it should come down to what BART can ultimately afford to do.  Any additional burden would cripple riders who need the transit system to make an honest living.

Some of these employees are abusing the system and the policies.  I know it's not representative of the entire BART workforce but I'm sure it's not uncommon.  It's part of the overall attitude that all of us passengers can attest to.

What would I rate my daily encounters with BART employees?  Probably a C- at best.  There is no "customer service" and when I legitimately need assistance with something, I am being treated as if I just woke someone up from a cozy nap and I should be punished.

I welcome everyone to post the facts here.  If this article isn't accurate, I would like to read others.  So far, articles I've found represent what this one says.

It's time for companies to get more mobile!

Traffic to across the Bay Bridge is backed up all the way to Concord, on the 680.  24 is completely jammed and takes one hour to get through a mile.  Yet, the impact of the BART strike could have been a lot worse if school is in session, and if this wasn't July 4th week when many folks are on break!  (I guess we should be thankful that they picked this week to strike? ha!)

When will companies become a bit more open to remote work?  There are video technologies these days to keep the interactions live and keep group work productive, not to mention social collaboration tools to help us become more mobile when we need to be.  Heck, there are even tracking tools to see how long it takes someone to respond to an email!

I am very grateful that I work at a job where it is OK to work remotely-- our equipment was built for remote work from day one.   At a time like this, the roads should be left open for those who absolutely need face to face interaction at their jobs (healthcare professionals) to get to where they need to go.

Ultimately, it makes me a bit angry that we are so dependent on BART and that gives them (management and unions) so much leverage to dictate our ticket prices and others.  

Did you brave the roads today??

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ready for a BART strike next week???

It looks like a 72 hour notice has been given by the Union, and with the current contract expiring this Sunday at 11:59pm, we should all think of commuting alternatives come Monday should the strike happen!  

I am fortunate enough to have the option to work from home and stay away from the mess if BART shuts down but for everyone else, are ferry, carpool or transbay bus viable alternatives?  

As much as I complain about BART and its dependability and cleanliness, we are so dependent on it.  If it truly shuts down one day, the Bay Area economy could fracture.  That is way too much power in BART's hands, including the workers.  

Well, what are you going to do next Monday if BART strikes?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

5 Best Practices to Keep in Mind When BART is Damn Crowded!

This morning, if you haven't heard, there was a nutcase who decided that jumping on top of a BART train at MacArthur station during high traffic hour was a smart idea.  Trains were shutdown, even the freeway was shutdown to ensure safety.  The massive delays lasted 3-4 hours after the incident.

Needless to say, the trains were crowded.  Piles of people forced their way in at each stop despite there not being anymore room in the trains.  It made the usual peak passenger volume seem leisurely.  I was literally hugging someone's backpack while another female passenger's rear end was leaning on mine.  Way too close for comfort.

I can't stress enough some courtesy rules people need to follow when trains are this crowded.  Please, please, please keep these in mind to make the ride less miserable for the rest of us.

5 Rules to Keep in Mind

1) If you have a big backpack, please DROP IT ON THE GROUND!  There's no room as it is.  Please put your bags on the floor to make room.

2) Please breath with your nose, not mouth.  Our faces are already inches away, it would help to not have to smell what you had for breakfast too, or if you happen to not brush that morning.

3) Get out of the train to make room for people who need to exit.  The train won't leave without you, and really, allowing people off the train would actually create more room inside the train.  So move!

4) On a similar note, if your station is coming up next, just wait until the train stops before you make your move towards the door.  People need to get off the train before you can exit.  By pushing your way to the door in the middle of the crowd only creates chaos and frustration because there is NO ROOM to move!

5) Hold your temper.  We all hate being delayed and being on an overly crowded train.  No need to be nasty.  If you don't want to bear the pain, just don't get on the train!  You're not entitled.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do you give up your seats? Picking up the question again in 2013

I've written about this at least twice.  But as I ride BART each day, I see things, and it really makes me question who truly deserves a seat in the designated section.  Obviously, those who have any physical handicap, senior citizens and in my book, any pregnant women who look like they are past 2nd trimester.  I happily and willingly stand up for any of them.

Is that too little? Am I not being thoughtful enough?  I must not be since I've been increasingly asked to get out of my seat for someone middle aged with a few gray hairs, or someone who looks overweight.  Hey dude, I'm tired too, just because I don't have gray hairs and I happen to be slender, doesn't mean I didn't have a pain somewhere that day or have some illness that requires me to stay low!

And why am I being picked on?  The man next to me, and the women across from me, look even younger and are just listening to music!  Why am I, being on Facebook and Twitter, the one picked out of the bunch??

Also, when did female passengers immediately demand seats from male passengers??  We can't stand??  I don't think men need to always get up for women-- not like our society expects chivalry these days, so why demand it on BART?

One last thing, when will all the BART trains be updated with new flooring and seats??  The year is half over!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Over Sensitivity on BART due to Boston Marathon Bombing

Let me first make this clear!  Everyone has the right to be over-sensitive, especially given what had happened last week.  A friend of mine, who uses a black backpack (unfortunately), was detained by station agent to speak with BART Police because someone had reported him!  He is Caucasian, but what he did that triggered suspicion was he placed his heavy backpack on one of the circular "seats" on the BART platform, to give himself a break, as he walked 3 feet away to stretch.

An elderly man immediately reporter him!  I don't blame him-- he was doing his due diligence especially given last week's horrific events.  But are we all under scrutiny??

Separately, I've surfed Twitter for other complaints of over-sensitivity on #SFBART and found a couple incidences where racial profiling allegedly occurred.

This is the Bay Area.  We are the shining example of multi-ethnicity, tolerance and melting pot.  If it's happening here, I can only imagine how awful it is everywhere else in the US.  I believe there have been at least 6 racially charged beatings reported by news outlets, and that's just me counting by how many I actually read.  I'm sure there are much more reported and unreported!!

I pray for our safety, and our country's safety but for me at least, the increased racial profiling is a concern.  I do my part by learning and reciting facts to dispel ignorance and stereotyping when I hear it.  I was, after all, an Ethnic Studies and Political Science major at UC Berkeley...racial politics is of personal interest to me!

Have you heard or seen any racially-charged incidents lately due to the Boston events?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

POLL: Should BART add more trains during commute hours?

I am sure that I'm not the only person who has been feeling the train over-crowding during commute hours.  The 8:14 and 8:24 trains from Orinda heading to SFO have become unbearably packed with hardly room to stand.  A typical 30 minute ride has turned into 40 due to how long it takes for people to find and readjust their standing position, and how long it takes for the doors to close.

What exactly is max capacity?  Shouldn't there be a safety standard?  Have BART officials actually tried taking the train amidst the most crowded hours to get a taste for what it feels like?

I've seen shorter women fall over due to lack of lower handle bar space to hold.  I've seen people hitting  faces unintentionally with their hand bags or backpacks.  Sweat, sneezes, coughs are often shared and transferred due to a new level of "closeness" between passengers.

Please answer the poll on the right and let everyone know if you believe BART should increase the number of trains during commute hours.

UPDATE: Poll tool did not work from day 1.  Every vote forced a reset.  Huge apologies!  BART lucked out this time!  Didn't they??!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

New downtown stations? Can't come soon enough!

Did you guys read the news?

Embarcadero and Montgomery stations are on track for a $900 million expansion, complete with new tunnels, elevators and extra platforms to boost rider capacity.  That's great news considering almost daily, around 5:15pm, the platforms are so crowded that the passenger lines have to wind around in circles, causing a back-up at the bottom of the escalator as people pour into the station.  I've seen people trip and fall due to the back-up since they have no where to step when the escalators come to an end.

What do you think about this upgrade?

Monday, January 28, 2013

SFO route, full of non-commuters

Yes, that is a very obvious statement, one might say. And it's a validation that the SFO direct line is a success. I use it to get to not only SFO but nearby meeting destinations.

It's how I know that the route is full of non-commuters that will be the point of this post. The suitcases give that away? Of course but that's a given. It's the behavior and demeanor that I find to be the most humorous clues that someone is a non-commuter.

They don't ever have their ticket or pass ready in advance. They block the left side of the escalators. They ask every other station which station is this. They enter the train asking...this the airport train (or this the SF train depending in which direction). They hold train doors open or are shocked when they close. They give money to homeless. And of course, they put suitcases on top of seats even when it's crowded.

I don't mind. As long as they don't delay my ride home. I applaud that SFO line has become so mainstream and it's taken many cars off the crowded freeways! Heck, I'd much rather deal with BART newbies than tourists on 80!

Now...if only we can get MORE frequent SFO trains!

P.S. I very endearingly dedicate this post to my boss who almost fit in as a BART commuter last week!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Nothing wakes you up better on a Monday morning

Than a huge whiff of the overpowering urine scent as I exit the Montgomery Station. In an effort to minimize breathing in the scent, I hold my breath as I jog up the stairs (hey, the year is young, resolutions still in tact!) I end up having to take in a little air before I make it in my building but didn't realize at the same time that I had stepped into a puddle of pee.

What a splendid way to start the day. Happy Monday, all.